Posted on May 19, 2017 by Rick Falkvinge

What do you do when you realize your government has blocked you for Wrongthink?

Something remarkable happened in Sweden this week: a list of 15,000 people with the wrong political opinions was used to block those people from the @Sweden account, and thereby preventing these people from communicating over Twitter with that part of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The government tried defending the block as only concerning neo-nazi right-wing extremists, which was a narrative that held water in legacy media until somebody pointed out that the Ambassador of Israel (!) was among the blocked.




The Swedish Institute, which is a part of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, operates a twitter account called @Sweden. This account is curated by a different Swedish person every week. Last week, a person identified as an “Internet security expert” was granted permission to apply her personal blocklist to the official Sweden account. It turned out that the person in question was very passionate about politics, far out on the left edge, and the blocklist basically contained everybody who didn’t agree with her — which had, in a quick series of keystrokes, become official Swedish foreign policy. This would have been a simple, reversible mistake, if the government had not doubled down and defended the action.

I discovered randomly that I had been blocked by my own government, the @sweden account, and was confused to say the least. On researching, I found the story of this list of some 15,000 people considered guilty of Wrongthink by passionate far-left-wing activists, and who had therefore been blocked from the official governmental channel as soon as one of them got to curate it.

When the story broke, the government doubled down and posted – and I am not making this up, do translate the page for yourself – “The Ministry of Foreign Affairs takes forceful measures to protect free speech, by blocking about 14,000 people from talking”. That’s so mind-boggling it’s straight out of 1984. War is peace, ignorance is strength, best regards Minitrue.

The measure, which really was just this governmental implementation of an extremist activist’s private blocklist, was quickly narrated in regime-loyalist mass media exactly how the government had described it, in denying any and all kinds of wrongdoing:

“About 12,000 accounts who pursue hate speech against minorities and human rights work… These accounts are often related to extreme-right or neo-nazi organizations, and incite violence.”

According to loyalist mass media, the reactions to the block were “overwhelmingly positive”.

So I was not only guilty of Wrongthink, I was also apparently in favor of hate speech against minorities and against human rights work, said the government while doubling down. (The fact that I have fought for liberty and human rights for the past fifteen years does not seem to apply. Realistically, though, questioning the rewriting of history that some extreme left factions keep doing may have had a much larger part in getting me on that blocklist – but I have also always fought for being honest about history, to the extreme annoyance of some.)

At this point, somebody started to question the narrative, pointing out the undisputed fact that the government had not only maintained a list of people with unpalatable political opinions, but also used it to discriminate against those people in dealing with the government, both of which are insanely illegal.

The government narrative fell apart when it was pointed out that their list of “right-wing extremist neo-nazis” included the Ambassador of Israel, at which point it became blatantly obvious to everyone that this was the private blocklist of a far-left activist which had been defended by a government digging an increasingly deeper hole in trying to defend their actions and deny any wrongdoing.

The story still doesn’t end there, though.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs unblocked everybody and destroyed the blocklist – but only after getting Freedom-of-Information requests to have it handed out. This is an extremely illegal act in Sweden, as all governmental documents are transparent by default and must be handed out on request, with no counterdemands allowed. Destroying records is illegal in the first place. Destroying records after they are against-all-efforts-to-cover-up embarrassing, and after they have been requested, goes directly against the Swedish Constitution since 1766.

There’s a lot to learn from this story, especially if your government routinely does worse things than just block people on Twitter.

But the question remains: How would you react if your government blocked you for Wrongthink?

It happened to me, just this week.

About Rick Falkvinge

Rick is Head of Privacy at Private Internet Access. He is also the founder of the first Pirate Party and is a political evangelist, traveling around Europe and the world to talk and write about ideas of a sensible information policy. Additionally, he has a tech entrepreneur background and loves good whisky and fast motorcycles.


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  • Adondriel

    Americas got the far right president, and Swedens got the Far left twitter take overs, what’s gunna happen next? Why would anyone let someone put a 15,000 user block list on GOVERNMENT twitter? Like, no, you can take over the twitter, but you damn well can’t block anyone, it’s A GOVERNMENT TWITTER a way for the people to converse with their government… who the hell even tried to defend this person???

  • 15000 seems like a big number for one person (or even a few people) to have blocked to me. I would be interested to hear their side of the story.

    This number rings a bell with me because of an article I read recently – from a Pro Hillary supporter who was getting a load of sexual harassment on twitter from Bernie fans… rape threats, death threats, general abuse etc… and she said she blocked thousands of them, and then the day after the election the accounts had been deleted. They were bots.

    So maybe they were responding to that? I don’t have the information, but in a country the size of Sweden, 15000 seems like a lot of people to need to block. Maybe they were trying to block bots?

    Anyway – I would (I think) regard this as a single-individual staffing-mistake made worse by govt arse-covering (or whatever), rather than a deliberately implemented policy…

    … and unfortunately, what you’ are doing by making it sound like this, with particular emphasis on the “far-left” part, is feeding into the Nazi narrative that inciting racial hatred is a freedom of speech issue.

    And “far-left” is hardly ever that – it’s basically where the middle used to be before Nazism became acceptable again somehow, and created a new fake centre. Sorry for the use of that word, but have you seen what these people actually say? It fits.

    https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/e6d466bd48eb3665d0cada8aba27785944f98c07377cd37db1543b9ad902b0d8.jpg

    This article that you have written will (most likely) wind up being utilised by the Nazi memosphere.

    You might want to be careful about doing that.

    • Falkvinge

      First: 15,000 is not only in Sweden, but globally. For example, Richard Dawkins was also on the list. Not a list of bots.

      Second, “their side of the story” is linked throughout the article.

      But most important, this is not a left-versus-right article. Left and right even has completely different meanings in most countries, so it’s pointless to talk about deeper meanings of it in anything but Americanocentric media (and then referring to liberals vs conservatives — that meaning only exists in France and Norway otherwise).

      The reason it’s important to mention in the article that this particular activist was left-wing, is because that’s the only way it makes sense that the Ambassador of Israel could end up on a list labeled as “misogynists, far right, and neo-Nazi”. This, in turn, is a crucial piece of the story as it was what made the entire wrongdoing-denial narrative come down like a ton of bricks.

      I’ve defended far-right, far-left, and far-center activists when their fundamental liberties were threatened. Just because one of them happen to say the same thing as me on a particular story, that makes it an ill fit to automatically label me with that group. I’m a libertarian in several senses of the word – above all, I fight for the liberty foundations of freedoms of speech, opinion, and assembly, as well as specific and important applications of those, like privacy.

      Some of my articles are being distributed by the far left, others by the far right. I’ve protested with political organizations across the entire spectrum, and even made them come together for the first time in decades to stage protests against surveillance (and other things).

      This is not left versus right. It is liberty versus authoritarianism.

      And a governmental blocklist based on political opinion falls squarely into the “dangerously authoritarian” bucket, completely regardless of the selection criteria used.

      • Fair enough.

        What would you do about bots?

      • Out of curiosity, what in this context characterises “far left” to you?

        What do these people actually want that characterises them as extremists?

    • ramarr0

      “and unfortunately, what you’ are doing by making it sound like this, with particular emphasis on the “far-left” part, is feeding into the Nazi narrative that inciting racial hatred is a freedom of speech issue.”
      Are you meaning that only the wrongdoings of the political spectrum opposed to yours should be uncovered, Nick? I have problems with this view, because I think that fascism cannot be fought with fascist methods. And large scale censorship is a fascist method that too many in the progressive sphere find palatable.

      • a) False equivalence.

        “Far left” is increasingly a label applied to somewhere near what the centre used to be. “Progressive” is only a balance to “fascist” in the minds of fascists.

        Forget this “balance” idea. This is not a debate between two legitimate “sides”. Last time people with these ideas showed up in Europe, they murdered millions upon millions of their own people.

        b) What would you do about bots?

        If your twiitter feed is turning into a spam-magnet for thousands of racists, what do you do?

        Assuming you don’t personally find the racism acceptable of course.

        • Jonathan Silverblood

          b) On your own private account you do whatever you feel like. On your temporarily accessible government account, however, you only represent your government – nothing else.

        • ramarr0

          I am a communist. An old-fashioned marxist In Poland they used the “intolerance should not be tolerated” stance to outlaw the communist party, with the blessing of the anti-marxist “progressives” like you, who helped to feed the narrative that USSR had a minor role in destroying the nazis.
          BTW, <> is a common idiotic stereotype of the liberist lib-dems who transformed the class struggle in a joke about who is more “unprivileged” and call “fascist” whoever is opposed to their ideas. Intersectionality is just interclassism in a nice box. Fascism is the armed force of Capitalism. The liberals are its evangelists.
          I never said that fascism is a “legitimate” idea. The problem is that if you apply a broad definition of “fascism” and “hate speech” you can outlaw basically any view which does not match yours.
          How much do you think it would take for a lib-dem to say that my view on intersectionality is “hate speech” and “fascist”? These are people that consider the harassment of a single woman by a bunch of thugs an anti-racist stance:

          https://www.gspellchecker.com/2015/12/goldsmiths-islamic-and-feminist-societies-are-a-disgrace/

          Do you consider THIS violence “legitimate”?